The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hot weather troubleshooting

sourloafer's picture

Hot weather troubleshooting

Hey y'all,

I recently moved from the northeast to the southeast, and I'm having a tough time adjusting my baking schedule to suit the hotter climate. Who's got ideas and tips for adjusting to a hotter ambient temperature? I know the general rules about tweaking water temperature and rise/proofing times, but I can't seem to get the mix quite right. 

I'll use the Overnight Country Blonde from FWSY as a specific example. In my old apartment, with a kitchen temperature of about 73-76 degrees, I would:

  1. In the late morning of Day 1, refresh starter from refrigerator, with final starter temperature of 78 degrees.
  2. 24 hours later, in the late morning of Day 2, I'd feed my starter again, with final starter temperature of 78 degrees.
  3. About 8 hours later, I would mix my final dough, 30 minute autolyse, so the final dough mix was again at 78 degrees.
  4. I'd add four folds over the next three hours before going to bed, and let the final dough rise for 12 hours.
  5. On the morning of Day 3, I'd let it proof for 3.5 hours at morning room temperature (66 degrees) and then for 30 minutes in the refrigerator while I preheated my cast iron dutch oven and ceramic dutch oven in the oven to 475 degrees.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes covered and 12 minutes uncovered. 


I arrived at this sequence after a lot of tweaking, and it was some of the best tasting and best looking bread I've ever made. 

Now, however, my kitchen temperature stays at a pretty constant 83 degrees, and I'm really struggling to adjust. I've adjusted my water temperature so that each step my dough still ends up at 78 degrees, as I did before, and I've tried to watch my dough and let that dictate my timing. Everything seems to go OK up to the final proof. Here's what I've done so far:

  1. Refresh starter in morning on Day 1. 
  2. Feed starter again in the evening of Day 1, about 12 hours later. 
  3. In the morning of Day 2, mix the final dough, and apply four folds over the next few hours.
  4. After 10 hours of rising, about triple in volume, with big bubbles visible just below the dough's surface but not yet bursting through, and quite jiggly, separate into loaves. 
  5. *Up to that point, everything has looked great.*
  6. Proof for 12 hours in refrigerator OR proof three hours at room temperature (I've tried it both ways).
  7. Bake for 30 covered and 12 uncovered at 475.

The final bread tastes pretty good, but the texture is a little dense, and there's almost no oven spring. I know the thing to do is really to just keep experimenting and taking notes, but I'm hoping someone can help give me some better direction. I can't tell if I'm letting my dough rise for too long in the bulk fermentation stage (given the hot room temp) or else not letting it proof enough (though the finger-dent test makes it seem like I'm giving it the right amount of time). Like I said, I'm a little stumped. Help please!

idaveindy's picture

Try using less starter to make your levain, and using less levain in the dough.  That would serve to slow fermentation to compensate for the higher ambient temperature.


Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb

Well I've just moved from the far west to the northeast, where the kitchen is not only warmer (~80˚F) but decidedly more humid, to which my starter and doughs are surprisingly responsive.  I am having to abbreviate fermentations more than any time in my experience (= midwest and norcal coast). 

The lengths of the fermentations you describe seem wildly excessive for the conditions you describe.  I never let a starter grow more than 5h even in winter (in a 78˚F proofer).  Your 12h starter grow-outs and 12 h bulk fermentation, under your conditions, seem an invitation to exhausted yeast and proteolysis.  When my starter domes, I use it or refrigerate it until I use it.  Even your 3 hour final proof seems long.

Since starter microbes multiply exponentially, tweaking the starting innoculum, as suggested above, is a tricky approach.  I would look at trimming back fermentation times in that sultry kitchen of yours.


sourloafer's picture

Thanks for the thoughts, y'all! I'll try both those things this round and report back with updates. 

I was also wondering whether it would make sense to shoot for a lower mix temperature than what Forkish recommends. So, instead of calibrating my water temperature so that the starter, levain, and final dough mix all end at 78 degrees, doing it so that the final mix temp was maybe 75 degrees, or even 70. Anyone have thoughts or experience on that sort of tweak?

sourloafer's picture

Some definite progress here. I used slightly less starter in the levain and slightly less levain in the final dough. I also let the dough complete most of its bulk fermentation (after applying 3 folds at room temperature over the course of 90 minutes) in the fridge, as well as most of its proofing. I thi k this time the dough was slightly underfermented.

If I'm still trying to get a greater oven spring, what else should I be thinking about?


semolina_man's picture

Read about desired dough temperature, DDT.  If you achieve DDT consistently, you will have consistent results.  Achieving consistent DDT means changing your method, if things in the process change, which in your case they have.  King Arthur has an article about DDT, and Bruno Albouze talks about it in his bread-related videos on YouTube. 

To slow things down: 

- reduce leavening (starter, levain, raw yeast)

- refrigerated bulk ferment

- refrigerated final proof

- refrigerate ingredients (flour, and water if tap water is too warm) prior to use

- reduce bulk fermentation time

- reduce final proof time


This gives you many parameters to modify, in order to produce consistent results.